Photo by Theo Tate
Sam Watson is one of 17 players on the Granite City Warriors’ 17-and-under St. Louis Amateur Baseball Association team this summer.
In 1987, the St. Louis Amateur Baseball Association began to help St. Louis area high school players get maximum exposure by playing the best teams in the area during the summer.
Now in its 29th season, the SLABA continues to expand. The league has 16 teams; eight of them are from Illinois.
One of those Illinois teams is the Granite City Warriors.
“This is a well-established league over in St. Louis,” said Scott Smallie, director of the Granite City SLABA program. “They were grateful enough to accept a lot of the Illinois teams into their league, so it’s a really good fit for us. We play every team twice and we end up with about 20 games, which is similar to what a legion schedule was. It’s ended up being the best fit for us.”
The Warriors are playing in their second SLABA season this summer. They have teams in the 15 and 17-and-under divisions.
Smallie, who completed his first season as head coach of the Granite City High School baseball team this spring, heads the 17U squad. Jeff Bladdick heads the 15U team.
Granite City, which folded its American Legion team in 2011, joined the SLABA in 2014.
Edwardsville, O’Fallon, Mascoutah and Civic Memorial also joined the league that year and Collinsville and Freeburg will begin SLABA play this summer.
Smallie said the league helps prepare his players for the high school baseball season.
“It’s going to help us tremendously because they will expand upon the regular season that we play and work with the guys, coach them and get about 20 extra games in, which are much-needed games,” Smallie said. “At the end of the summer, you’ll have an idea on what you need to work on going into the offseason.”
The Warriors’ 17U team is composed of mostly sophomores and juniors from the GCHS baseball team. Juniors Gabe Jarman, Sam Watson, Jordan James, Clay Caldwell, Trent Jones, Brandon Merz, Corey Slinkard and Jake Frievogel and sophomores B.J. Niesporek, Jacob Grayson, Andy Halley, Elijah Halley, Austin Kuenkler, James Marler, Blake Murphy, Latrell Smith and Matt Woods make up the team.
The Warriors were scheduled to begin their season June 5 against the Stallions at Babe Champion Field. The Stallions, who are based in St. Charles County, are a charter member of the SLABA. They joined the league in 1988.
The Warriors also have games against Civic Memorial, O’Fallon, Mascoutah, Freeburg and Waterloo, which joined the SLABA in 2013.
Besides the Stallions, the Jefferson County Barnstormers, the Jefferson County Blazers, the St. Charles Capitals, Dirtbags, American National, the South-West Stars and the Easton Tigers are the Missouri teams in the SLABA. The Warriors have games against the Capitals, Dirtbags, Tigers and American National.
“There are all kinds of teams from all over,” Smallie said. “Those teams are basically going to be St. Louis schools which we don’t get to play a whole lot, which is nice. You get to cross over and play a few teams that you normally wouldn’t see.”
The Warriors also have games against Roxana, an independent squad. They faced Roxana on Monday and will face the squad again on July 13. Granite City had a doubleheader against Civic Memorial on Wednesday. They also have doubleheaders vs. Mascoutah on June 17, the St. Charles Capitals on June 20 and Collinsville on June 24.
The SLABA playoffs begin on July 17 for both the 15U and 17U divisions.
“They separate the top four teams and they go into the best two out of three series and the rest of the teams go down and play a double elimination,” Smallie said. “It gives the kids something to fight for at the end and the record matters. You can go in and try to play for a seed and eventually if you make it to the top four, you can win the league and win a trophy.”
The Warriors’ 15U team began its season on Wednesday with a 10-2 win over the St. Charles Capitals at Babe Champion Field. Players on the team include Nicholas Beeman, Grant Beanland, Jack Biomme, Carl Carnes, Tyler Dagon, Lucas Foote, Christian Frasier, Nick French, Hector Leon, Cordell Mackin, Adam Marmion, Oliver Mitchell, Isaiah Mizell, Hunter Needham, Sam Roberds, Bailey Thompson, Nathin Toney, Nicholas Watson, Tyler Wheatley, Drew Wielgus and Aaron Wood.